As the US seeks to end its missions in Afghanistan, relations between Pakistan and the US appear to be heading for a crash landing.
The army is expected to issue within a week its detailed response to the findings of the US probe into the November 26 Nato airstrikes which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
There will almost certainly be several differences in opinion.
Although Pakistan had already rejected the report’s conclusions in its initial responses, the detailed reply will be significant because it will set the tone for future cooperation with the US, a military official said.
“The US investigation report is being analysed and a detailed response will be given within a week,” confirmed the official, who asked not to be named.
Indications are that the army will totally reject the findings as questions are being raised about the impartiality of Brigadier General Stephen Clark, who led the US inquiry. “Brig Clark had commanded the same company which was involved in the Salala incident, so how can he be impartial,” the official asked.
Though the US probe has conceded that Nato must accept the major blame for the attack, it found that Pakistani soldiers fired first at American and Afghan forces.
However, the army said that Pakistan’s position was unambiguous: the November 26 attack was “totally deliberate and Nato was solely responsible.”
Army denies that US briefed Kayani
Meanwhile, the army denied reports that the American military briefed army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on its investigations.
Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby told the media that a report by military investigators was delivered to Gen Kayani on Sunday by a US officer based in Islamabad, who explained the findings in person.
The full report from the joint US-Nato investigative team was not released publicly until Monday, to allow time for the Pakistani leadership to read it first, Kirby said.
“We wanted General Kayani to be able to see the entire thing,” he said, calling the approach “an appropriate professional courtesy” to Kayani. However, a Pakistani security official told AFP that “no such briefing took place and the report was not handed over in person to the army chief.”
“The report was delivered to the concerned department (at army headquarters) but not to the chief,” the official said.
The disagreement over the facts looks set to be the first of many this week.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2011.